How Retailers Use Psychology To Make You Spend More

With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, you might have noticed yourself acting a little strangely when you're out shopping. Over on Psychology Today, you can find a breakdown of the sensory campaigns most shops use to alter your Christmas shopping habits.

Photo by Dov Harrington.

A holiday shopping campaign is a multi-pronged approach from an advertising point of view, and as Psychology Today points out, marketers are going after each of your senses to convince you to buy more. This works in different ways depending on which senses they're going for. For instance, certain colours might change your spending habits:

Red stimulates and energizes — even our spending. Waitresses wearing red receive 14 to 26% higher tips than waitresses wearing any other colour uniform. Another study found that shoppers on eBay bid more aggressively for products shown against red backgrounds than blue backgrounds.

Of course, it's not just what you see that matters — it's also what you hear. In the case of the December, that means holiday music:

More importantly, classic holiday music evokes nostalgia. Recent research shows that nostalgia elevates positive moods and helps people feel better about themselves... Feeling more connected to others, positive and loaded with holiday spirit is a recipe of on the spot bumps in gift budgets.

All of your senses play a role in your shopping experience, from the sensation of touching a product, to the smells that waft out from the shopping floor. Unfortunately, much like how advertising manipulates your choices, you can't do much to counter the experience except recognise what's going on. When you're aware of the manipulation at retailers, you're less likely to succumb to their effects.

This Is Your Brain On Holiday Shopping [Psychology Today]


    One of the things Virgin Blue did a couple years ago that gave me back my freedom of choice for airline during the Christmas season is get rid of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" as their deboarding song. It was holiday tradition for me to always fly during the Christmas season on that airline, just to be able to get off that plane whilst hearing that song and thinking, "ZOMG, my holiday is going to be GREAT!". Now their music is just, meh. (Or at least it was last year. I haven't flown them this Christmas season, so I can't really comment on it.) Yeah, by now the song is a few years old, but it is still a great holiday party song.

      I agree that "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (By Mariah Carey) would make me get off a plane quickly too. Problem is that it may cause a stampede, unless people have noise cancelling ear-blockers ;)

        Bah Humbug!

    How about loss leaders at the front of the store to entice you, slower music so you spend more time in the store, using the word 'sale' a lot, selling you the expensive items first, so other items don't seem so expensive afterwards. And let's not forget about getting additional extras for spending over a certain threshold.

    ...and the waiter thing and tips. I thought it was mints and recommendations to cheaper dishes that got waiters tips, not the colour of clothing.

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